Children and Youth Leading the Way

December 10 was celebrated as the UN’s Human Rights Day, commemorating the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.  The theme for 2019 is ‘Youth Standing Up for Human Rights’, celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child to “to celebrate the potential of youth as constructive agents of change, amplify their voices, and engage a broad range of global audiences in the promotion and protection of rights”.

As part of the celebration, we at Vista Hermosa are spotlighting our grant partner Kupenda For the Children, working in several African nations and Haiti to train thousands of families, youth, and leaders as disability advocates who help 40,000 children with disabilities access the education, medical care and inclusion they deserve. According to Kupenda, there are 580 million children worldwide with disabilities and 80% live in developing nations. Most of these children are neglected, abused and excluded from community life. In communities in Kenya and elsewhere, Kupenda works to break down barriers for disabled youth and children. Kupenda recently shared a story of one such disabled child and her community’s transformation…

Six-year-old Zainabu does not walk or talk because of her cerebral palsy. Many believed her illness was caused by witchcraft, causing the family further alienation. During a visit with Kupenda, a volunteer with special education experience taught Zainabu how to use a simple communication devise that recorded sounds. After recording the Swahili greeting “Mambo” into the device, the volunteer passed it to Zainabu and showed her how to press the button to make the greeting herself. Within a few moments, Zainabu had managed to press the button and say “Mambo” while looking at her mother. Her mother flashed a wide white smile and responded “Poa.” This first conversation came about because of Kupenda’s outreach. Through disability advocacy workshops with area pastors, traditional healers, and government representatives, stigma was changed and they were encouraged to act on behalf of families impacted by disabilities in their community. 76 families were brought together for a parent workshop; they were motivated to sign their children up for specialized education and soon discovered that appropriate schools were far away and too full.

The parents and community leaders used what they had learned in the workshops to begin meeting together and fight for their children’s rights. In just a few months, they inspired the local government to donate 10 acres of land and pay the salaries for the school’s teachers once the facility is built. Kupenda is collaborating with local businesses to construct the building, which will serve 140 children with education, therapy services and medical care. The occupational therapist says these services will improve Zainabu’s functioning and one day she may even be able to walk and communicate. Zainabu reveals how Kupenda’s work with community leaders results in sustainable and locally-led change that benefits families with disabilities and transforms communities.

Kupenda may be the spark, but the community is the flame. At Vista Hermosa, we are humbled to be contributors to the sparks that build a more just and flourishing world.

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